Robert Neilson Stephens.

Philip Winwood A Sketch of the Domestic History of an American Captain in the War of Independence; Embracing Events that Occurred between and during the Years 1763 and 1786, in New York and London: wr online

. (page 6 of 22)
Online LibraryRobert Neilson StephensPhilip Winwood A Sketch of the Domestic History of an American Captain in the War of Independence; Embracing Events that Occurred between and during the Years 1763 and 1786, in New York and London: wr → online text (page 6 of 22)
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the attentions of the young gentlemen. 'Twas not of her will that they
dangled. In truth she no longer had eyes or ears for the small
fashionable world of New York. She had a vastly greater world to
conquer, and disdained to trouble herself, by a smile or a glance, for
the admiration of the poor little world around her.

All her thoughts in her first months of marriage - and these were very
pleasant months to Philip, so charming and sweet-tempered was his
bride - were of the anticipated residence in England. It was still
settled that Philip was to go in June; and her going with him was now
daily a subject of talk in the family. Mr. Faringfield himself
occasionally mentioned it; indifferently, as if 'twere a thing to
which he never would have objected. Margaret used sometimes to smile,
thinking how her father had put it out of his power to oppose her
wishes: first by his friendly sanction to Phil's going, to refuse
which he had not the right; and then by his consent to her marriage,
to refuse which he had not the will.

Naturally Philip took pleasure in her anticipations, supposing that,
as to their source and object, they differed not from his. As the pair
were so soon to go abroad, 'twas thought unnecessary to set up in a
house of their own in New York, and so they made their home for the
time in the Faringfield mansion, the two large chambers over the great
parlour being allotted to them; while they continued to share the
family table, save that Margaret now had her morning chocolate abed.

"I must initiate myself into London ways, dear," she said, gaily, when
Fanny remarked how strange this new habit was in a girl who had never
been indolent or given to late rising.

"How pretty the blue brocaded satin is!" quoth Fanny, looking at one
of Margaret's new gowns hanging in a closet. "Why didn't you wear it
at the Watts' dinner yesterday? And your brown velvet - you've not had
it on since it came from the dressmaker's."

"I shall wear them in London," says Margaret.

And so it was with her in everything. She saved her finest clothes,
her smiles, her very interest in life, her capacity for enjoyment, all
for London. And Philip, perceiving her indifference to the outside
world, her new equability of temper, her uniform softness of
demeanour, her constant meditative half-smile due to pleasurable
dreams of the future, read all these as tokens of blissful content
like that which glowed in his own heart. And he was supremely happy.
'Tis well for a man to have two months of such happiness, to balance
against later years of sorrow; but sad will that happiness be in the
memory, if it owe itself to the person to whom the sorrow in its train
is due.

She would watch for him at the window, in the afternoon, when he came
home from the warehouse; and would be waiting at the parlour door as
he entered the hall. With his arm about her, he would lead her to a
sofa, and they would sit talking for a few minutes before he prepared
for supper - for 'twas only on great occasions that the Faringfields
dined at five o'clock, as did certain wealthy New York families who
followed the London mode.

"I am so perfectly, entirely, completely, utterly happy!" was the
burden of Phil's low-spoken words.

"Fie!" said Margaret, playfully, one evening. "You must not be
perfectly happy. There must be some cloud in the sky; some annoyance
in business, or such trifle. Perfect happiness is dangerous, mamma
says. It can't last. It forbodes calamity to come. 'Tis an old belief,
and she vows 'tis true."

"Why, my poor mother held that belief, too. I fear she had little
perfect happiness to test it by; but she had calamities enough. And
Bert Russell's mother was saying the same thing the other day. 'Tis a
delusion common to mothers, I think. I sha'n't let it affect my
felicity. I should be ungrateful to call my contentment less than
perfect. And if calamity comes, 'twill not be owing to my happiness."

"As for that, I can't imagine any calamity possible to us - unless
something should occur to hinder us from going to London. But nothing
in the world shall do that, of course."

'Twas upon this conversation that Tom and I broke in, having met as I
returned from the custom-house, he from the college.

"Oho!" cried Tom, with teasing mirth, "still love-making! I tell you
what it is, brother Phil, 'tis time you two had eyes for something
else besides each other. The town is talking of how engrossed Margaret
is in you, that she ignores the existence of everybody else."

"Let 'em talk," said Margaret, lightly, with an indifference free from
malice. "Who cares about their existence? They're not so interesting,
with their dull teas and stupid gossip of one another! A set of
tedious rustics."

"Hear the countess talk!" Tom rattled on, at the same time looking
affectionate admiration out of his mirthful eyes. "What a high and
mighty lady is yours, my lord Philip! I should like to know what the
Morrises, and Lind Murray, and the Philipse boys and girls, and our De
Lancey cousins, and the rest, would think to hear themselves called a
set of rustics."

"Why," says Phil, "beside her ladyship here, are they _not_ a set of
rustics?" With which he kissed her, and rose to go to his room.

"_Merci_, monsieur!" said Margaret, rising and dropping him a curtsey,
with the prettiest of glances, as he left the parlour.

She hummed a little French air, and went and ran her fingers up and
down the keys of the pianoforte, which great new instrument had
supplanted the old harpsichord in the house. Tom and I, standing at
the fireplace, watched her face as the candle-light fell upon it.

"Well," quoth Tom, "Phil is no prouder of his wife than I am of my
sister. Don't you think she grows handsomer every day, Bert?"

"'Tis the effect of happiness," said I, and then I looked into the
fireplace rather than at her. For I was then, and had been for long
months, engaged in the struggle of detaching my thoughts from her
charms, or, better, of accustoming myself to look upon them with
composure; and I had made such good success that I wished not to set
myself back in it. Eventually my success was complete, and I came to
feel toward her no more than the friendship of a lifelong comrade. If
a man be honest, and put forth his will, he can quench his love for
the woman that is lost to him, unless there have existed long the
closest, tenderest, purest ties between them; and even then, except
that 'twill revive again sometimes at the touch of an old memory.

"You dear boys!" says Margaret, coming over to us, to reward Tom with
a kiss on the cheek, and me with a smile. "What a vain thing you will
make me of my looks!"

"Nay," says candid Tom, "that work was done before ever we had the
chance of a hand in it."

"Well," retorted Margaret, with good-humoured pertness, "there'll
never be reason for me to make my brother vain of his wit."

"Nor for my sister to be vain of hers," said Tom, not in nettled
retaliation, but merely as uttering a truth.

"You compliment me there," says Margaret, lightly. "Did you ever hear
of a witty woman that was charming?"

"That is true," I put in, remembering some talk of Phil's, based upon
reading as well as upon observation, "for usually a woman must be
ugly, before she will take the trouble to cultivate wit. The
possession of wit in a woman seems to imply a lack of other reliances.
And if a woman be pretty and witty both, her arrogance is like to be
such as drives every man away. And men resent wit in a woman as if
'twere an invasion of their own province."

"Sure your explanation must be true, Mr. Philosopher," said Margaret,
"'tis so profound. As for me, I seek no reasons; 'tis enough to know
that most witty women are frights; and I don't blame the men for
refusing to be charmed by 'em."

"Well, sis," said Tom, "I'm sure even the cultivation of wit wouldn't
make you a fright. So you might amuse yourself by trying it, ma'am. As
for charming the men, you married ladies have no more to do with
that."

"Oh, haven't we? Sure, I think 'tis time little boys were in bed, who
talk of things they know nothing about. Isn't that so, Bert?"

"Why," said I, "for my part, I think 'tis unkind for a woman to
exercise her charms upon men after she has destroyed the possibility
of rewarding their devotion."

"Dear me, you talk like a character in a novel. Well, then, you're
both agreed I mustn't be charming. So I'll be disagreeable, and begin
with you two. Here's a book of sermons Mr. Cornelius must have left.
That will help me, if anything will." And she sat down with the volume
in her hands, took on a solemn frown, and began to read to herself.
After awhile, at a giggle of amusement from schoolboy Tom, she turned
a rebuking gaze upon us, over the top of the book; but the very effort
to be severe emphasised the fact that her countenance was formed to
give only pleasure, and our looks brought back the smile to her eyes.

"'Tis no use," said Tom, "you couldn't help being charming if you
tried."

She threw down the book, and came and put her arm around him, and so
we all three stood before the fire till Philip returned.

"Ah," she said, "here is one who will never ask me to be ugly or
unpleasant."

"Who has been asking impossibilities, my dear?" inquired Philip,
taking her offered hand in his.

"These wise gentlemen think I oughtn't to be charming, now that I'm
married."

"Then they think you oughtn't to be yourself; and I disagree with 'em
entirely."

She gave him her other hand also, and stood for a short while looking
into his innocent, fond eyes.

"You dear old Phil!" she said slowly, in a low voice, falling for the
moment into a tender gravity, and her eyes having a more than wonted
softness. The next instant, recovering her light playfulness with a
little laugh, she took his arm and led the way to the dining-room.

And now came Spring - the Spring of 1775. There had been, of course,
for years past, and increasing daily in recent months, talk of the
disagreement between the king and the colonies. I have purposely
deferred mention of this subject, to the time when it was to fall upon
us in its full force so that no one could ignore it or avoid action
with regard to it. But I now reach the beginning of the drama which is
the matter of this history, and to which all I have written is
uneventful prologue. We young people of the Faringfield house (for I
was still as much of that house as of my own) had concerned ourselves
little with the news from London and Boston, of the concentration of
British troops in the latter town in consequence of the increased
disaffection upon the closing of its port. We heeded little the fact
that the colonies meant to convene another general congress at
Philadelphia, or that certain colonial assemblies had done thus and
so, and certain local committees decided upon this or that. 'Twould
all blow over, of course, as the Stamp Act trouble had done; the
seditious class in Boston would soon be overawed, and the king would
then concede, of his gracious will, what the malcontents had failed to
obtain by their violent demands. Such a thing as actual rebellion,
real war, was to us simply inconceivable. I believe now that Philip
had earlier and deeper thoughts on the subject than I had: indeed
events showed that he must have had: but he kept them to himself. And
far other and lighter subjects occupied our minds as he and I started
for a walk out the Bowery lane one balmy Sunday morning in April, the
twenty-third day of the month.

Mr. and Mrs. Faringfield, Fanny, and Tom, had gone to church. Philip
and I boasted of too much philosophical reading to be churchgoers, and
I had let my mother walk off to Trinity with a neighbour. As for
Margaret, she stayed home because she was now her own mistress and had
a novel to read, out of the last parcel received from London. We left
her on the rear veranda, amidst the honeysuckle vines that climbed the
trellis-work.

"I've been counting the weeks," she said to Phil, as we were about to
set forth. "Only seven more Sundays." And she stopped him to adjust
the ribbon of his queue more to her taste. "Aren't you glad?"

"Yes; and a thousand times so because it makes you happy, my dear,"
said he.

She kissed him, and let him go. "Don't walk too far, dear!" she called
after us.

We looked back from the gateway, and saw that she had come to the end
of the veranda to see us from the garden. We doffed our hats, and Phil
threw her a kiss; which she returned, and then waved her hand after
us, softly smiling. Philip lingered a moment, smiling back, to get
this last view of her ere he closed the gate.

We had just passed the common, at the Northern end of the town, when
we heard a clatter of galloping hoofs in the Bowery lane before us.
Looking up the vista of road shaded by trees in fresh leafage, we saw
a rider coming toward us at a very severe pace. As he approached, the
horse stumbled; and the man on its back, fearing it might sink from
exhaustion, drew up and gave it a moment in which to recover itself.
He evidently wished to make a decent entrance into the town. He was in
a great panting and perspiration, like his trembling steed, which was
covered with foam; and his clothes were disturbed and soiled with
travel. He took off his cocked felt hat to fan himself.

"You ride fast, for Sunday, friend," said Phil pleasantly. "Any
trouble?"

"Trouble for some folks, I guess," was the reply, spoken with a Yankee
drawl and twang. "I'm bringing news from Massachusetts." He slapped
the great pocket of his plain coat, calling attention to its
well-filled condition as with square papers. "Letters from the
Committee of Safety."

"Why, has anything happened at Boston?" asked Phil, quickly.

"Well, no, not just at Boston. But out Concord way, and at Lexington,
and on the road back to Boston, I should reckon a few things _had_
happened." And then, leaving off his exasperating drawl, he very
speedily related the terrible occurrence of the nineteenth of
April - terrible because 'twas warlike bloodshed in a peaceful land,
between the king's soldiers and the king's subjects, between men of
the same race and speech, men of the same mother country; and because
of what was to follow in its train. I remember how easily and soon the
tale was told; how clearly the man's calm voice, though scarce raised
above a usual speaking tone, stood out against the Sunday morning
stillness, with no sound else but the twittering of birds in the trees
near by.

"Get up!" said the messenger, not waiting for our thanks or comments;
and so galloped into the town, leaving us to stare after him and then
at each other.

"'Faith, this will make the colonies stand together," said Philip at
last.

"Ay," said I, "against the rebellious party."

"No," quoth he, "when I say the colonies, I mean what you call the
rebellious party in them."

"Why, 'tis not the majority, and therefore it can't be said to
represent the colonies."

"I beg your pardon - I think we shall find it is the majority,
particularly outside of the large towns. This news will fly to every
corner of the land as fast as horses can carry it, and put the country
folk in readiness for whatever the Continental Congress may decide
upon."

"Why, then, 'twill put our people on their guard, too, for whatever
the rebels may attempt."

Philip's answer to this brought about some dispute as to whether the
name rebels, in its ordinary sense, could properly be applied to those
colonists who had what he termed grievances. We both showed heat, I
the more, until he, rather than quarrel, fell into silence. We had
turned back into the town; choosing a roundabout way for home, that we
might observe the effect of the messenger's news upon the citizens. In
a few streets the narrow footways were thronged with people in their
churchgoing clothes, and many of these had already gathered into
startled groups, where the rider who came in such un-Sabbath-like
haste had stopped to justify himself, and satisfy the curiosity of
observers, and ask the whereabouts of certain gentlemen of the
provincial assembly, to whom he had letters. We heard details
repeated, and opinions uttered guardedly, and grave concern everywhere
expressed.

By the time we had reached home, Mr. and Mrs. Faringfield were already
there, discussing the news with my mother, in the presence of the two
daughters and Tom. We found them all in the parlour. Margaret stood in
the library doorway, still holding her novel in her hand, her finger
keeping the page. Her face showed but a languid interest in the
tragedy which made all the others look so grave.

"You've heard the news, of course?" said Mr. Faringfield to us as we
entered, curiously searching Philip's face while he spoke.

"Yes, sir; we were the first in the town to hear it, I think," replied
Phil.

"Tis a miracle if we do not have war," said Mr. Faringfield.

"I pray not," says my mother, who was a little less terrified than
Mrs. Faringfield. "And I won't believe we shall, till I see it at our
doors."

"Oh, don't speak of it!" cried Mrs. Faringfield, with a shudder.

"Why, ladies," says Philip, "'tis best to think of it as if 'twere
surely coming, and so accustom the mind to endure its horrors. I shall
teach my wife to do so." And he looked playfully over at Margaret.

"Why, what is it to me?" said Margaret. "Tis not like to come before
we sail, and in England we shall be well out of it. Sure you don't
think the rebels will cross the ocean and attack London?"

"Why, if war comes," said Phil, quietly, "we shall have to postpone
our sailing."

"Postpone it!" she cried, in alarm. "Why? And how long?"

"Until the matter is settled one way or another."

"But it won't come before we sail. 'Tis only seven weeks. Whatever
happens, they'll riddle away that much time first, in talk and
preparation; they always do."

"But we must wait, my dear, till the question is decided whether
there's to be war or peace. If we come round to the certainty of
peace, which is doubtful, then of course there's naught to hinder us.
But if there's war, why, we've no choice but to see it out before we
leave the country."

I never elsewhere saw such utter, indignant consternation as came over
Margaret's face.

"But why? For what reason?" she cried. "Will not vessels sail, as
usual? Are you afraid we shall be harmed on the sea? 'Tis ridiculous!
The rebels have no war-ships. Why need we stay? What have we to do
with these troubles? 'Tis not our business to put them down. The king
has soldiers enough."

"Ay," said Phil, surprised at her vehemence, but speaking the more
quietly for that, "'tis the colonies will need soldiers."

"Then what folly are you talking? Why should we stay for this war."

"That I may take my part in it, my dear."

"Bravo, brother Phil!" cried Tom Faringfield. "You nor I sha'n't miss
a chance to fight for the king!"

"Nor I, either," I added.

"'Tis not for the king, that I shall be fighting," said Phil, simply.

A silence of astonishment fell on the company. 'Twas broken by Mr.
Faringfield:

"Bravo, Phil, say _I_ this time." And, losing no jot of his haughty
manner, he went over, and with one hand grasping Phil's, laid the
other approvingly on the young man's shoulder.

"What, have we rebels in our own family?" cried Mrs. Faringfield,
whose horror at the fact gave her of a sudden the needful courage.

"Madam, do your sentiments differ from mine?" asked her husband.

"Sir, I am a De Lancey!" she replied, with a chilling haughtiness
almost equal to his own.

Tom, buoyed by his feelings of loyalty above the fear of his father's
displeasure, crossed to his mother, and kissed her; and even Fanny had
the spirit to show defiantly on which side she stood, by nestling to
her mother's side and caressing her head.

"Good, mamma!" cried Margaret. "No one shall make rebels of us!
Understand that, Mr. Philip Winwood!"

Philip, though an ashen hue about the lips showed what was passing in
his heart, tried to take the bitterness from the situation by treating
it playfully. "You see, Mr. Faringfield, if we are indeed rebels
against our king, we are paid by our wives turning rebels against
ourselves."

"You cannot make a joke of it, sir," said Margaret, with a menacing
coldness in her tone. "'Tis little need the king has of _my_
influence, I fancy; he has armies to fight his battles. But there's
one thing does concern me, and that is my visit to London. - But you'll
not deprive me of that, dear, will you, now that you think of it
better?" Her voice had softened as she turned to pleading.

"We must wait, my dear, while there is uncertainty or war."

"But you haven't the right to make me wait!" she cried, her voice
warming to mingled rage, reproach, and threat. "Why, wars last for
years - I should be an old woman! You're not free to deny me this
pleasure, or postpone it an hour! You promised it from the first, you
encouraged my anticipations until I came to live upon them, you fed my
hopes till they dropped everything else in the world. Night and day I
have looked forward to it, thought of it, dreamt of it! And now you
say I must wait - months, at least; probably years! But you can't mean
it, Phil! You wouldn't be so cruel! Tell me!"

"I mean no cruelty, dear. But one has no choice when patriotism
dictates - when one's country - "

"Why, you sha'n't treat me so, disappoint me so! 'Twould be breaking
your word; 'twould be a cruel betrayal, no less; 'twould make all your
conduct since our marriage - nay, since that very day we promised
marriage - a deception, a treachery, a lie; winning a woman's hand and
keeping her love, upon a false pretence! You _dare_ not turn back on
your word now! If you are a man of honour, of truth, of common
honesty, you will let this miserable war go hang, and take me to
England, as you promised! And if you don't I'll hate you! - hate you!"

Her speech had come out in a torrent of increasing force, until her
voice was almost a scream, and this violence had its climax in a
hysterical outburst of weeping, as she sank upon a chair and hid her
face upon the back thereof. In this attitude she remained, her body
shaking with sobs.

Philip, moved as a man rarely is, hastened to her, and leaning over,
essayed to take her hand.

"But you should understand, dear," said he, most tenderly, with what
voice he could command. "God knows I would do anything to make you
happy, but - "

"Then," she said tearfully, resigning her hand to his, "don't bring
this disappointment upon me. Let them make war, if they please; you
have your wife to consider, and your own future. Whatever they fight
about, 'tis nothing to you, compared with your duty to me."

"But you don't understand," was all he could reply. "If I could
explain - "

"Oh, Phil, dear," she said, adopting again a tender, supplicating
tone. "You'll not rob me of what I've so joyously looked forward to,
will you? Think, how I've set my heart on it! Why, we've looked
forward to it together, haven't we? All our happiness has been bound
up with our anticipations. Don't speak of understanding or
explaining, - only remember that our first thought should be of each
other's happiness, dear, and that you will ruin mine if you don't take
me. For my sake, for my love, promise we shall go to England in June!
I beg you - 'tis the one favour - I will love you so! Do, Phil! We shall
be so happy!"

She looked up at him with such an eager pleading through her tears
that I did not wonder to see his own eyes moisten.

"My dear," said he, with an unsteady voice, "I can't. I shouldn't be a
man if I left the country at this time. I should loathe myself; I
should not be worthy of you."

She flung his hand away from her, and rose in another seizure of
wrath.

"Worthy!" she cried. "What man is worthy of a woman, when he cheats
her as you have cheated me! You are a fool, with your talk of loathing
yourself if you left the country! In God's name, what could there be
in that to make you loathe yourself? What claim has the country on
you, equal to the claim your wife has? Better loathe yourself for your
false treatment of her! You'd loathe yourself, indeed! Well, then, I
tell you this, 'tis I that will loathe you, if you stay! I shall
abominate you, I shall not let you come into my sight! Now, sir, take
your choice, this instant. Keep your promise with me - "

"'Twas not exactly a promise, my dear."

"I say, keep it, and take me to London, and keep my love and respect;
or break your promise, and my heart, and take my hate and contempt.
Choose, I say! Which? This instant! Speak!"


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Online LibraryRobert Neilson StephensPhilip Winwood A Sketch of the Domestic History of an American Captain in the War of Independence; Embracing Events that Occurred between and during the Years 1763 and 1786, in New York and London: wr → online text (page 6 of 22)